Lucky Ride: A Hitchhiker’s Map of the Sixties
A Vietnam era veteran must choose between letting the remains of his marriage decay into compost or trying to resurrect it one last time and recover his once carefree love, before the draft intervened. He hitchhikes across the country seeking support from friends he met on Adak, a desolate cold war outpost, where Seabees bravely defended their country with joints and LSD. Along the road he confronts Texas Rangers, amorous witches, new age cults, and a host of lonely losers and good Samaritans, all offering their own paths to redemption. The story is steeped in hippie optimism and cynicism with a few whiffs of magic realism.
Here are the first few paragraphs of the latest draft.
No sooner did I decide to hitchhike to California than I got a surprise call from Rick Winwood, one of my buddies from the Navy. He was in Boston, up from Texas to deliver a load of Mexican marijuana. He would swing through Binghamton in a few days. Did he want company on his drive back to Fort Worth? You bet. Hanging up the phone I was already gone, off on my first lucky ride, a thousand miles of interstate from my wife Ronnie’s affair with her boss.
Rick pulled up in front of our apartment in the top floor of a rundown triplex on a Wednesday evening. The family of Jesus freaks who lived below us was already asleep, but I saw Grandma Roller peeking through her bedroom curtains when I went out to help him unload. There wasn’t much to witness that night: just Rick in his blue jeans, unbuttoned white shirt, three empty Coke cans in one hand, his wild, thick blonde hair flopping over his John Lennon glasses and scruffy, pale beard. He leaned over the trunk to drag out his Navy issue duffel bag stuffed with marijuana and dirty laundry.
The hood of his old ’64 Ford steamed under the street lamp, its red paint flaked off from the heat, revealing the gray primer underneath, as if it had been driven through licks of fire. I listened to the faint cracks of metal and escaping air as the huge machine began to cool. Made to run hard, with hot forged steel, thick joints and beams, a car to drive all night long. Rick could tell I was ready to leave right then, but he wanted a bed and a smoke. We were quiet, not to wake the rest of the neighbors, but we shook hands and hugged like brothers, spilling his Coke cans on the soggy lawn. One of the things that always impressed me about Rick was how he could chug a Coke with one gulp, smile, and ask for another, his one bigger‑than‑life Texas habit.
“Hey Flash, good to see you out of the suck,” he said.
My friends called me Flash because of my uncanny good luck and because I was often slow to make decisions. I liked to check all the angles, as if my life were plotted on one vast astronomy chart. Rick glanced up at the porch.
“Ronnie’s working late tonight, but she should be home soon.”
To be continued….